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Summary "Action Theory" as it is used here is the sub-area in the philosophy of action/agency that is concerned chiefly with the foundations of the broader sub-discipline. Central problems include the nature and scope of intentional action and agency, the explanation of action, and our knowledge of our actions. Most of the other problems that fall within the scope of this category at PhilPapers are closely related to such foundational questions.
Key works Perhaps the two most influential works that have shaped the current state of action theory are Anscombe 1957 and Davidson 1963. Davidson's essay is the locus classicus for the causal theory of action and for causalism about reason-explanations of actions. Anscombe's book has been influential among proponents of non-causal theories of action and reason-explanation. For a classic defense of the agent-causal perspective, see Chisholm 1966. And for a volitionist perspective, see McCann 1974. Some collections of essays that may help readers get a sense of the major debates in action theory today include Mele 1997, Aguilar & Buckareff 2010, Aguilar & Buckareff 2009, and D'Oro & Sandis 2013.
Introductions The following are good places to start to for those looking for guides to the current state of the art in action theory. Mele 2005 Mele 1992 Wilson 2008
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  1. Forrest E. Baird (1992). Human Thought and Action. Upa.
    A book of readings in Western intellectual history focusing on the role of reason in human action. Contents:^ Plato: Myth of the Cave; Plato: ^IThe Four Virtues; Aristotle: Knowledge of Causes; Aristotle: The Types of Governments; Epicurus: Epicureanism; Epictetus: Stoicism; St. Augustine: The Platonist; St. Augustine: The Nature of Sources of Evil; St. Thomas Aquinas: The Four Laws; St. Thomas Aquinas: The Nature of the Soul; Pico: The Oration on the Dignity of Man; John Calvin: Reason, Sin and Illumination; St. (...)
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  2. S. J. Boey (2013). De dubbele oorspronkelijkheid Van blondels “action”. Bijdragen 24 (2):130-153.
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  3. Graeme MacQueen (2008). WhatValues Underlie Our Actions? In Neil Arya & Joanna Santa Barbara (eds.), Peace Through Health: How Health Professionals Can Work for a Less Violent World. Kumarian Press 1075.
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  4. V. Mangalvedkar (1919). The Philosophy of Action of Lok. B.G. Tilak's Githarahasya. Indian Literature Publishers.
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  5. Fred D. Miller Jr (1975). Actions and Results. Philosophical Quarterly 25 (101):350-354.
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  6. Theodore Mischel (1971). Human Action. Conceptual and Empirical Issues. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 31 (4):606-608.
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  7. Walter Mischel (1996). From Good Intentions to Willpower. In P. Gollwitzer & John A. Bargh (eds.), The Psychology of Action: Linking Cognition and Motivation to Behavior. Guilford 9--197.
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  8. Dieter Misgeld (1980). Ultimate Self-Responsibility, Practical Reasoning, and Practical Action: Habermas, Husserl, and Ethnomethodology on Discourse and Action. [REVIEW] Human Studies 3 (1):255 - 278.
    A particular notion of reason has pervaded studies of practical action throughout the whole tradition of western philosophy up to Wittgenstein and Heidegger. This notion has been centrally located in contexts other than the specific study of practical action itself.This essay examines the relation of reason and practical action by reviewing Habermas' and Husserl's theories of the relation between discourse and action (I), and then proposing Garfinkel's ethnomethodological studies of practical action as an alternative to Husserl's and Habermas' preoccupation with (...)
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  9. James S. Morgan (1982). Actions. Philosophical Studies 29:345-348.
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  10. John Mullarkey, Almost Nothing Happening: An Essay on Action and Event.
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  11. Frank Wright Neely (1967). The Metaphysics of Action. Dissertation, Yale University
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  12. Matthew B. O.’Brien & Robert C. Koons (2012). Objects of Intention. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 86 (4):655-703.
    The “New Natural Law” Theory (NNL) of Grisez, Finnis, Boyle, and their collaborators offers a distinctive account of intentional action, which underlies a moral theory that aims to justify many aspects of traditional morality and Catholic doctrine. In fact, we show that the NNL is committed to premises that entail the permissibility of many actions that are irreconcilable with traditional morality and Catholic doctrine, such as elective abortions. These consequences follow principally from the NNL’s planning theory of intention coupled with (...)
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  13. Hans Fredrick Oberdiek (1965). The Moral Relevance of Motives, Intentions, and Actions. Dissertation, The University of Wisconsin - Madison
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  14. Douglas Odegard (1988). Volition and Action. American Philosophical Quarterly 25 (2):141 - 151.
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  15. G. Van Oenen (2011). Interpassive Agency: Engaging Actor-Network-Theory's View on the Agency of Objects. Theory and Event 14 (2):1-19.
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  16. Erik S. Ohlander, Action , in Ṣūfism.
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  17. Frank M. Oppenheim (1975). Agency and Urgency. New Scholasticism 49 (2):235-238.
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  18. Richard D. Parry (1974). The Agent's Knowledge of His Own Action. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 55 (1):44.
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  19. Tamas Pataki (2000). Freudian Wish-Fulfilment and Sub-Intentional Explanation. In M. Levine (ed.), The Analytic Freud. Routledge 49--84.
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  20. Colin Patrick (2012). "Review of" Life and Action". [REVIEW] Essays in Philosophy 13 (2):23.
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  21. Delroy Paulhus & Richard Christie (1981). Spheres of Control: An Interactionist Approach to Assessment of Perceived Control. In Herbert M. Lefcourt (ed.), Research with the Locus of Control Construct. Academic Press 1--161.
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  22. Leon Pearl (1977). Action Theory. International Studies in Philosophy 9:111-112.
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  23. David Pears (1975). The Appropiate Causation of Intentional Basic Actions. Critica 7 (20):39 - 72.
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  24. Ch Pereleman (1960). Theoretical Relations of Thought and Action. Philosophy Today 4 (2):138.
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  25. Björn Petersson (2000). Belief & Desire the Standard Model of Intentional Action : Critique and Defence.
    The scheme of concepts we employ in daily life to explain intentional behaviour form a belief-desire model , in which motivating states are sorted into two suitably broad categories. The BD model embeds a philosophy of action, i.e. a set of assumptions about the ontology of motivation with subsequent restrictions on psychologising and norms of practical reason. A comprehensive critique of those assumptions and implications is offered in this work, and various criticisms of the model are met. The model’s predictive (...)
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  26. Jean-luc Petit (1989). La Sémantique de L'Action. A.N.R.T. Université de Lille Iii.
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  27. Karl Pfeifer (1992). Carl Ginet, On Action Reviewed By. Philosophy in Review 12 (3):196-199.
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  28. Karl Pfeifer (1992). Carl Ginet, On Action. [REVIEW] Philosophy in Review 12:196-199.
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  29. Karl Pfeifer (1991). Kathleen Lennon, Explaining Human Action. [REVIEW] Philosophy in Review 11:263-265.
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  30. Patrick Pharo & Louis Quéré (1990). Les Formes de L'Action. Monograph Collection (Matt - Pseudo).
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  31. Bryony Pierce (2006). Is The Concept Of Rational Agency Coherent? Philosophical Writings 33 (3).
    The concept of rational agency commonly presupposes the freedom of the agent to act autonomously, for reasons of the agent’s own choosing. If we are rational agents, the normative nature of reason and the presupposition of autonomy appear to preclude a deterministic account of rational agency, in which actions would be reducible to events within a causally closed physical system. This paper will challenge the notion of rational agency as involving self-determination in the sense of freedom of action. My thesis (...)
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  32. Thomas Pink (1997). XIII—Reason and Agency. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 97 (3):263-280.
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  33. Guy Planty-Bonjour (1986). Les Implications Théologiques de « l'Action ». Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 176 (4):435 - 448.
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  34. Howard Platzman (1982). What is It Like to Be an Agent? Dissertation, City University of New York
    This thesis addresses a basic question in the philosophy of action: what distinguishes intentional from nonvoluntary action? Traditional discussion surrounding this question is largely a debate between those who propose some special state of or process in consciousness as an essential feature of intentional action , and those who deny this. I present a version of feeling theory that is responsive to certain problems with the view which its other contemporary proponents seem generally to ignore. ;Chapter I examines the feeling (...)
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  35. Pietroski Pm (1998). Actions, Adjuncts, and Agency. In Daniel N. Robinson (ed.), The Mind. Oxford University Press 107--425.
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  36. Edward Pols (1986). Moral Action. Review of Metaphysics 40 (2):399-402.
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  37. Daniel J. Povinelli (2001). On the Possibilities of Detecting Intentions Prior to Understanding Them. In Bertram Malle, L. J. Moses & Dare Baldwin (eds.), Intentions and Intentionality: Foundations of Social Cognition. MIT Press 225--248.
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  38. Betty Powell (1959). Uncharacteristic Actions. Mind 68 (272):492-509.
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  39. J. C. Pringle (1929). The Poor Law and the Control of Mental Disease. The Eugenics Review 21 (3):171.
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  40. J. Proust (2003). Action. In Barry Smith (ed.), John Searle. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 102--127.
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  41. Joëlle Proust (1999). Indexes for Action. Revue Internationale de Philosophie 1999 (3):321-345.
    This articles examines three ways in which the connection between semantic and pragmatic representations of a single action can be tightened up in order to remedy the puzzle of deviant causation. A first move consists in making the feedback process, i.e. the dynamics of the relationship between both representational components, a central element in the definition of an action. A second step brings in the action-effect principle, emphasizing the teleological relation of each pragmatic representation type with its external effects. A (...)
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  42. J. B. R. (1969). Human Action: Conceptual and Empirical Issues. [REVIEW] Review of Metaphysics 23 (1):143-143.
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  43. James Rachels (1998). The Principle of Agency. Bioethics 12 (2):150–161.
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  44. Daisie M. Radner (1993). Directed Action and Animal Communication. Ration 6 (2):135-54.
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  45. Lubomira V. Radoilska, Review of David Hunter, 'Belief and Agency'. [REVIEW]
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  46. Shahram Rafieian (2012). A Biosemiotic Approach to the Problem of Structure and Agency. Biosemiotics 5 (1):83-93.
    A human being is the simultaneous composite of several different levels of being, from atomic and subatomic to the level of complex social interaction, and these levels are nested within the individual hierarchically (lower levels giving rise to higher levels, etc.). One of the most important and influential approaches developed in the history of science has been that of systems theory and systemic thinking, in which the different levels of the hierarchy, and the interactions between those levels, are considered simultaneously. (...)
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  47. K. W. Rankin (1972). The Non-Causal Self-Fulfillment of Intention. American Philosophical Quarterly 9 (4):279 - 289.
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  48. K. W. Rankin (1959). ANSCOMBE, G. E. M. -Intention. [REVIEW] Mind 68:261.
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  49. David Rayfield (1968). Action. Noûs 2 (2):131-145.
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  50. William M. Reddy (2001). The Logic of Action: Indeterminacy, Emotion, and Historical Narrative. History and Theory 40 (4):10–33.
    Modern social theory, by and large, has aimed at reducing the complexity of action situations to a set of manageable abstractions. But these abstractions, whether functionalist or linguistic, fail to grasp the indeterminacy of action situations.Action proceeds by discovery and combination. The logic of action is serendipitous and combinative. From these characteristics, a number of consequences flow: The whole field of our intentions is engaged in each action situation, and cannot really be understood apart from the situation itself. In action (...)
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